Antiochian Orthodox

Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus in Syria, the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus in Syria, the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. Source: Preacher lad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The Antiochian Orthodox Church is a continuation of the Christian community founded in Antioch (now in modern day Turkey) and it is also known as the ‘Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch’ and as the ‘Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East’. The Antiochian Orthodox Church claims the status of the most ancient Christian church in the world, as Antioch is referred to in the New Testament, as the place where the disciples were first called Christians. St Peter and St Paul are considered the founders of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and are its patron saints.

Antiochian Orthodox Christians have a long history of survival in challenging circumstances with their church history being affected by the crusaders, the arrival of Arabs in the Middle East, the growth of Islam, the redefinition of national borders, and the recent spike in persecution of Christians in the Middle East and across the Arab World. Where the seat of the Church’s patriarchate was formerly in the ancient city of Antioch, it is now in Damascus, Syria. And where the majority of the Antiochian Orthodox once lived in Lebanon and Syria, they now reside outside the Middle East, in Western countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia.

Religious Observances

Icon of Mar Georges (St George) - found in Saint George's Monastery, a historic Antiochian Orthodox monastery located in northwestern Syria's Valley of the Christians, Wadi al-Nasara
Icon of Mar Georges (St George) - found in Saint George's Monastery, a historic Antiochian Orthodox monastery located in northwestern Syria's Valley of the Christians, Wadi al-Nasara. Source: James Gordon from Los Angeles, California, USA (Deir Mar Georges, Syria) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Antiochian Orthodox celebrate the usual Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter, with rituals and traditions practised in the lead up to Easter that are consistent with those of the Christian Orthodox Church. The Church year begins on 1 September and the ecclesiastical year has many significant Feasts of the Church.

The Antiochian Orthodox mark major life events, such as birth, marriage, and death, within the traditions of Orthodox Christianity.

Presence in Australia

The history of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand is one that spans from the last years of the 19th Century and continues to the present day.

The first wave of Lebanese (then known as 'Syrian') immigration was during the 1880s to 1890s, finding work hawking and peddling goods in the country areas of eastern Australia (and in Dunedin, New Zealand). Along with the Greek and Russian Orthodox faithful, they took part in the construction of community churches - Holy Trinity Church in Surry Hills, Sydney, and Holy Annunciation, East Melbourne. In order to minister to these different groups, the Church of Jerusalem sent priests who were able to speak Greek, Arabic and, sometimes, Russian. These were pan-ethnic parishes: services were done in the three languages, altar servers were from the three ethnicities, and icons were donated by people in each ethnic group.

The needs of the Antiochian Orthodox community were not fully met through these means, and it was necessary to found Antiochian Orthodox parishes. After the needs of the community were represented by James Batrouney on a visit to Lebanon in 1929, Archimandrite Antonious was commissioned as the first priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Melbourne. His arrival in Melbourne in 1931 saw the commencement of a period of immense growth and achievement for the church faithful.

In 1932, the community purchased St Nicholas Church, East Melbourne, which served both Arabic and Russian speaking members of the church community. A new church, St George’s Church, Thornbury, was formed in 1972 and more recently, St Paul’s Church, Dandenong was formed in 2001.

You can find places of worship in our Directory.

Further Reading & Materials